A British nurse, Pauline Cafferkey, is fighting for her life in a London hospital. She had volunteered to work during the Ebola virus crisis last year. She served with the Save the Children hospital in Sierra Leone.
Upon deplaning in Heathrow in late December, she reported not feeling well, but was cleared to continue to Glasgow. Shortly afterwards she became acutely ill and was transferred to a London hospital equipped to deal with EVDs. She made a recovery from the infection and was discharged from the hospital in late February. She then went about her business.
On October 9th she was again in a London hospital fighting for her life. Her last reported condition is critical.
Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, said the news was “frankly staggering.” The Independent
She is the first person to be diagnosed with a life threatening resurgence of the disease.
Previously some of the survivors had health complications that included rashes, infections and eye problems. There is growing evidence that the virus may remain in the body for months after fighting off the disease. The eye and central nervous system as well as testes and pregnant uteri are suspected capable of harbouring it.
There have been studies undertaken to discover whether the disease might be present in semen. It is. It has been present as long as nine months after the initial infection. Now it is recommended that recovered men should be issued with condoms and either refrain from sex or practice safe sex until their semen has been tested twice and shown to be EV free.
The danger is not merely theoretical. There has been a confirmed transmission of EVD between a man who recovered and his sexual partner who caught the disease and died. The connection has been confirmed by tracing the genes involved.
There have been 65 people identified as close contacts with nurse Cafferkey. Twenty-five have received the vaccination against the virus. The vaccination has proved effective in West Africa.
Medical News Today
It was the first time that the disease had been identified in the west. It has surfaced previously in Zaire and South Sudan.
The virus named Ebola was named after a small river in central Africa. The animal reservoir of the disease has not been identified conclusively but evidence is accumulating that points to bats.
The epidemic has cost the three countries hardest hit by the disease, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone dearly. Lost investor confidence and loss of tourist dollars have affected their economies. People could not conduct business normally or farm. Many children were orphaned in the epidemic and the countries are also hard pressed to provide care for the young. Some of the survivors of Ebola have ongoing health problems that will require life-long care.
In addition to the immediate economic and social impacts on these countries, the loss of highly trained health care providers will continue to have an impact on people’s health.
WHO Press Release
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